(By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com)
THREE NEW UPDATES AT END OF ARTICLE:
They come in boots, slippers and sneakers.
They are called Uggs and they are behind the first major Shatnez crisis of 2019. In the writing of this article the author has been in touch with three Shatnez laboratories (among them the well-respected Rabbi Yosef Sayag from the International Headquarters of Professional Shatnez Testers in Lakewood, NY) and the Uggs company itself.
On Monday alone, Uggs fielded over 500 inquiries from concerned Orthodox Jews.
- Seven models of Deckers Brands Uggs have, at times, presented with a problem of Shatnez. They are discussed below. All images and reports were compiled by the Shatnez Laboratory in Lakewood, NJ.
- REPORT #1 – Blue Canvas sneaker Uggs (purchased from Zappos) have wool in the inner heel of the shoe. It is called UggWool by the company. Linen fibers were found in the canvas.“I recently ordered these Ugg sneakers from Zappos. We noticed a sticker on the bottom that says it contains wool (as seen in the picture).I took it to be tested for Shatnez where they found linen fibers in the canvas. The wool couldn’t be removed (even though it’s only in the inner heel of the shoe) as it was sewn in strongly and he didn’t think all of it could be removed. As these are a popular style shoe, I wanted to let readers know about this Shatnez issue.”
- REPORT #2 – A black Ladies Ugg Slipper with an insole had a reprocessed canvas under the insole. Some of them had Shatnez. This slipper had a band across the lip of the slipper with two metal fasteners on each end. There is prominent white stitching surrounding connecting the slipper to the sole.
Jan ’18 – From the desk of the Lakewood Shatnez Laboratory Please note, when testing an Ugg slipper, remember to remove the insole. Underneath lays a reprocessed canvas that requires testing. See pictures.
- REPORT #3 – A pinkish/red ladies canvas shoe with a ropelike lace at the front (no eyelets) has an upper part of the shoe that is made of a linen blend. A piece of wool is sometimes attached to the heel under the insole.
Lady’s Canvas Shoe – Dec ’17 – From the desk of the Shatnez Test Center South Laboratory – R’ Moshe Zisow [Lakewood]
A red Ugg lady’s canvas shoe was brought to the Lakewood Shatnez Test Center, for testing.
The upper part of the shoe was a linen blend. A piece of wool was attached to the heal, inside the shoe.
- REPORT # 4 – The popular woolen boot (suede on outside fleece on inside) similar to the one depicted in this picture have a rim near the sole that has at times contained a linen blend. That one, however, was manufactured in Australia and was white in color.
Ugg Boots – Dec ’17 – From the desk of the Gateshead Shatnez Laboratory – R’ Binyomin Benjamin
A Woolen Ugg boots was brought to the Gateshead Shatnez Laboratory. The bottom rim by the sole is a Linen blend.
- REPORT #5 – The striped furry [made of wool, actually] slipper (18 gray stripes 18 white ones) is made of a linen blend on top.
Ugg slippers – From the desk of the Lakewood Shatnez Laboratory
The UGG (Australia) slipper shown in the picture to the left was tested by R’ Yosef Sayagh in the Lakewood Shatnez Laboratory.
The outer fabric was linen and cotton. The black threads are linen and the white threads are cotton.
The inside of the slipper is lined with wool.
- REPORT #6 – The pink Australian shoe sneaker (women’s) labelled 85% wool and 15% nylon is actually mislabeled. It is actually a linen/cotton blend. The inside (by the heel) has a wool insert.
Ugg Canvas Shoe Sneaker – From the desk of the Lakewood Shatnez Laboratory
This UGG (Australia) shoe sneaker shown in the picture to the right was tested by R’ Yosef Sayagh in the Lakewood Shatnez Laboratory.
The outer fabric was listed as 85% Wool, 15% Nylon. It was mislabeled; it really was a linencotton blend. The inside of the shoe sneaker had some wool attached to it.
- REPORT #7 – The Ugg black Mocassins (full shoe) with the wool fleece lining may have a a starched piece of linen behind the tag. Not all of them have it.
Ugg Moccasin – From the desk of the Montreal Shatnez Laboratory – Rabbi Michael Harrosch
Just found underneath the wool fleece lining, of an Ugg moccasin slipper a piece of starched linen. It was located behind the tag, see pictures.
- There are numerous manufacturers that Deckers uses for Uggs.
- Many Shatnez labs have taken apart Uggs shoes and have found no linen.
So What is New?
On February 14th, there was a communication sent from one of the customer care representatives to a woman named Chaya. The Customer Care rep, M. Tafoya, stated that all of the Decker Ugg shoes, in fact, contain linen. It was this communication which set off the firestorm.
The problem is that many Shatnez laboratories across the country have not been able to locate the linen on all of the brands. Some of the labs have located the linen on the ones that were previously known to have Shatnez. The halachic question now arises as to whether we should be concerned for the statement made by the representative, or do we rely on the Chazakos that we have relied upon for years in regard to shatnez checking?
The Uggs representatives are now telling customers that they are checking with the product teams in order to convey to their consumers accurate and precise information. They are not categorically stating that all of the shoes contain linen.
This question was posed to a number of Gedolei HaPoskim, and the answers will be included here as soon as they arrive.
At 7:00 PM on Monday evening the following response was heard from Rav Dovid Feinstein Shlita:
Until word is received from more senior people at Uggs (no customer service representatives) as to whether or not all the shoes contain linen, one may rely upon the fact that apart from the seven known models, the Shatnez checkers have not found the linen. This is not a heter, but rather a method of conduct concerning the wearing of the Uggs until more information comes in.**
We received the following communication from UGGS representative:
Hi Rabbi Yair,
I represent UGG – I’m with their communications firm – and I caught your story: https://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/general/1681530/ugg-controversy-do-uggs-have-shatnez-an-update.html.
I’m providing a response below from the company.
We have been contacted by numerous members of the Jewish community following the release of erroneous information that our products contain both wool and linen. Please be assured that none of our current UGG® footwear products contain both wool and linen. Thank you.
UPDATE # 3
Statement from Shatnez Lab in Lakewood, NJ (Rabbi Y. Sayagh)
The response from the company indicates that none of the current UGG@ footwear products contain both wool and linen. They do not discuss the past. Also, just this evening Shatnez was found in a new pair of UGG moccasins.
Also Rav Dovid Harfenes Shlita ruled that a company, in general, does have ne’emanus if they put it in ksav – in writing. He later issued a letter saying that he never paskened on Uggs – never having seen them.
UPDATE # 4
Rav Shlomo Miller Shlita also ruled that the Uggs (other than the 7) are permitted and there is no need to be concerned for the note from the Customer Claims Representative.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)